Thursday, October 1, 2015

19 Tishrei Yarzheit Vilna Gaon

Painting of the Vilna Gaon from Yesodei Hatorah School corridor wall

Rabbi Eliyahu of Vilna - The Vilna Gaon - Leader of Lithuanian Jewry, Torah scholar and kabbalist. Born: Vilna, Lithuania, 1720 Died: 19 Tishrei Vilna, Lithuania,1797

Popularly referred to as the Vilna Gaon, the Gra (initials of Gaon Rabbi Eliyahu), or simply as the Gaon. Considered to be the greatest Torah scholar of the past two centuries.

Even as a child Eliyahu of Vilna amazed the congregation when, at the age of 7, he delivered a learned discourse in the Great Synagogue in Vilna. By 10 years of age he had surpassed all his teachers, and, studying by himself with total concentration, he acquired knowledge of the vastness of Torah in both its revealed and mystical aspects. Every minute of his life was devoted to Torah study. He never slept more than two hours in a 24-hour period; he never accepted any rabbinic post or leadership of a yeshivah. He taught few disciples, selected from the foremost Torah scholars of his time. He also mastered astronomy, mathematics and music.

Known for fierce opposition to Chassidut, which was initiated in 1736 by the Baal Shem Tov, he and his followers in this anti-Chassidic Movement were known as "Mitnagdim," or opponents. Their opposition was based on the beliefs, vigorously denied by Chassidic leaders, that Chassidut took liberties with the Oral Law, that it substituted emotion for intellect in the Study of Torah, that its form of prayer departed too far from the traditional form of prayer, etc.

The Vilna Gaon cleared a new path to Talmud study, focusing on gaining a clear understanding through keen analysis of the principals and approaches of the early authorities. His methodology stood in sharp contrast to the pilpul system of the Polish yeshivahs, an intricate system of creating a complex framework with which a series of questions would be answered. He toiled hard on emending the the talmudic and midrashic texts. Subsequent discoveries of ancient manuscripts confirmed the soundness of his corrections, which appear in the Vilna edition of the Talmud [Haga'ot Hagra].

His works which were recorded and published by his disciples, include Aderet Eliyahu, a commentary on the Torah; a commentary on Ecclesiastes; Shenot Eliyahu, a commentary on the Mishna, Order of Zeraim; Biur Hagra, a commentary on Shulchan Aruch; a commentary on Sefer Yetzirah, a kabbalistic work; and many other works.

His commentary on the Torah is filled with interesting allusions that show the oneness of the Written Torah and the Oral Law, demonstrating their common source in Divine revelation.

The Vilna Gaon was revered in Vilna and throughout the world for his phenomental knowledge and saintly character. One of his most outstanding disciples was Rabbi Chaim of Volozhin, the founder of the yeshivah of Volozhin. Following the Gaon's approach to learning, this institution spread Torah for more than a 100 years. Today most yeshivas follow the study pattern of Volozhin, keeping alive the approach to Torah pioneered by the great Vilna Gaon.


Moriah said...

The Vilna Gaon and Rabbi Moshe Chaim Luzzatto:

A major rabbinic near-contemporary who praised Ramchal's writing was Rabbi Eliyahu of Vilna, the Vilna Gaon (1720-1797), the most authoritative Torah sage of the time as well as a great kabbalist. He was reported to have said after reading The Path of the Just, that were Ramchal still alive, he (the Gaon) would have walked from Vilna to learn at his feet.

Dov Bar-Leib said...

I have no idea where Hurricane Joaquin will hit on the East Coast of the United States on Hoshana Rabbah/ Shmini Atzereth, but the following is very clear:

It seems that a Hurricane that is about to hit on Hoshana Rabbah, some say around the vicinity of New York City, is named after the last undisputed King of Yehudah (Yehoiachin) who was most assuredly the ancestor of Mashiach ben David.....If this is true, this is truly awesome. Hurricane Yoaquin? I doubt it is named after Joaquin Andujar, the One Tough Dominican pitcher for the St. Louis Cardinals who starred in the 1982 World Series. It seems to be named after King Yehoiachin, the last undisputed King of Yehudah who sat on the Throne of Yehudah and who was/is most assuredly the ancestor of Mashiach. He was let out of prison by Babylonian King Evil Merodach, 37 years after being exiled to Bavel. At that time he had 7 sons. His first born Shealtiel became the ancestor of the Exilarchs in Galut. His third son, Pedaiah fathered Zerubavel, who made Aliyah with the 42,000 to rebuild Yerushalayim and the 2nd Temple. Of those two, Shealtiel or Zeruvbavel, there is a dispute over who is the ancestor of Mashiach, but with Yehoiachin, there is no dispute.

The last few verses of Sefer Melachim make that obvious. Cursed by Yirmiyahu (22:30) to remain childless and to have no children who rule on the Throne of Yehudah in his lifetime, Yehoiachin is let out of prison 37 years after being exiled and summarily gives birth to 7 boys, any one of whom can be the ancestor of Mashiach ben David.

Phillip Baram said...

19 tishrei is gematria chavah which is gematria milui MH 45 as is known in kabbalah . the GRA mastrered kabbalah and wrote vocisous commenteries on zohar and sefer yetzirah . His disbute with the chabad rabbi isnt understood , different methods of torah limud .